Alice Hamilton, a Life in Letters

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Harvard University Press, 1984 - Biography & Autobiography - 460 pages
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She was first considered "subversive" during World War I, yet she lived to protest our involvement in Vietnam. She was America's foremost industrial toxicologist, a pioneer in medicine and in social reform, long-time resident of Hull House, pacifist and civil libertarian. She was Edith Hamilton's sister, and the first woman on the faculty of Harvard, though she retired--an assistant professor in the school of public health--ten years before women medical students were admitted.

This legendary figure now comes to life in an integrated work of biography and letters. A keen observer and an extraordinarily complex woman, Alice Hamilton left a rich correspondence, spanning the period from 1888 to 1965, that forms a journal of her times as well as of her life. The letters document the range of her involvement, from the battle against lead poisoning to debates with Felix Frankfurter over civil liberties. But as Alice Hamilton describes a woman's medical education in the late nineteenth century, her unlikely adventures in city slums, mine shafts, and factories, her work with Jane Addams and the women's peace movement, we also witness the stages of one woman's evolution from self-deprecating girl to leading social advocate. The charming details of her girlhood help us to understand her conflicted need to escape Victorian constraints without violating her own notion of femininity, a dilemma resolved only by a career combining science with service.

Beautifully realized works themselves, these letters have been woven by Barbara Sicherman into an exemplary biography that opens a window on the Progressive era.


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User Review  - labwriter - LibraryThing

This book focuses on Alice Hamilton (b.1869), but we are also introduced to the others in this remarkable family--mothers, sisters, cousins--an amazing family community of hyperliterate women. Alice ... Read full review


The Hamiltons of Fort Wayne
Medical Training 18901894
Hull House 18971907
Exploring the Dangerous Trades 19081914
The War Years 19151919
The Harvard Years 19191927
Elder Stateswoman 19281935
Semiretirement 19351949

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About the author (1984)

Barbara Sicherman is Kenan Professor of American Institutions and Values, Trinity College, and coeditor of Notable American Women: The Modern Period.

ALICE HAMILTON (1869-1970), trained as a toxicologist, taught at Harvard Medical School and was an investigator of occupational poisons for the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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